King County Council shelves additional Metro Transit cuts

Sep 29, 2014, 3:53 PM | Updated: 4:42 pm

Metro bus service cuts planned for next February are shelved, for now. The King County Council Monday refused to approve further cuts until after the county’s two-year budget is adopted in November.

County Council member Joe McDermott said that the transit agency’s revenues and expenses have changed drastically, as have county sales tax collections. The county executive projects a reserve fund of up to $260 million dollars in the next four years.

“It’s hard to budget around constantly changing numbers but that’s our charge and we’ll take it on,” he said. “The county can, and always has, adjusted spending as the economy and revenues change.”

Metro recently identified more than $120 million in savings, including a drop in diesel fuel prices, reduced cost of labor due to the reduction of 335 employees and a suggested smaller fund for new bus purchases.

The council adopted an ordinance in July calling on Metro Transit to be more accountable for finances when proposing future service cuts.

“I am pleased that there is now consensus to cancel further service cuts to allow the County Council to complete the King County budget and for Seattle voters to act in November on Seattle’s Proposition 1. This is an approach that a majority of us on the County Council supported from the outset,” said council member Rod Dembowski in a statement after Monday’s council meeting.

“This is a good news day in terms of the fact that we end up, through that effort, a continuation of that effort, may have identified funds that will allow us to hold off on further reductions in service,” said council President Larry Phillips.

The first round of service cuts, including the elimination of 28 routes, began last weekend. The second round of cuts was expected to include the elimination of 16 more routes, the reduction of 32 others and a total service reduction of 169-thousand hours. Metro had planned to release details next year of a third round of transit reductions proposed for 2016.

“We will be able to avoid further reductions in our transit service and really focus on growing our system,” said McDermott.

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